Off the Press

April 3, 2012

By Greg Farrar

Greg Farrar Press photographer

EFR has new tools against disasters

P ower tools are so awesome! Your obedient correspondent loves to fix, build and clean messes with — among other tools — his table saw, drill, sander, chain saw and motorized plumbing snake. As Tim the Toolman Taylor would say, “Grunt, grunt, grunt!”

That’s why visiting Eastside Fire & Rescue’s Structural Collapse Rescue Training Exercise on March 27 was like being a kid in a candy shop.

Hydraulic concrete drills! Petrogen cutting torches! Water-cooled, hydraulic-driven concrete chain saws!

Donning a hardhat and earplugs, I shot photos as firefighters used the opportunity to become familiar with the new tools, received from a federal Department of Homeland Security Urban Area Security Initiative grant.

EFR Capt. Pete Brummel, as a member of a regional committee, was able to coordinate the distribution of tools to fire departments serving Seattle, Bellevue, Tacoma, Tukwila, South King County and EFR, which received $100,000 in equipment.

The Petrogen oxygen-gasoline rescue-cutting torch, safer and easier to handle than those using more volatile fuels, was funded by the EFR Volunteer Association.

The members of EFR’s Technical Rescue Team got to do things with the tools they never had a chance to do before.

Firefighter Jamee Mahoney, with Station 85 in Carnation, sliced through a 5-inch slab of concrete with that concrete chainsaw as if it was — get ready for the cliché — a hot knife through butter.

Tom Craig, of Station 83 in Klahanie, and Terry Cushman, of Station 87 in North Bend, broke up big blocks of concrete with a hydraulic jackhammer.

Chief Lee Soptich got his inner toolman going as he burned through inch-thick steel plates like Scotty slicing through a bulkhead with a phaser.

Two teams of firefighters made a race of trying two different routes through a pile of wrecked cars and concrete to be the first to rescue a mannequin.

With a hand-powered ratchet block-and-tackle called a griphoist, firefighter Pete Wilson, of Station 81 at Pine Lake, could move a big block of concrete weighing well over a ton.

In any future natural disaster, highway collision or construction accident, there will be a lot more knowledgeable rescuers, with a lot less wait time and the state-of-the-art (cutting-edge, literally!) tools to save lives in the local area. With 90 percent of disaster rescues taking place in the “golden 48 hours” after an event, these new rescue devices and the trained men and women of EFR using them will be a true blessing to all of us. “Grunt, grunt, grunt” is right!

Greg Farrar: 392-6434, ext. 235, or Comment at

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